Sunday, October 22, 2017


[I moved Monday's National Novel Writing Month post to today because tomorrow I'm going to unplug and do something else.]

I broke a keyboard last week, something I do once or twice a year. I'm heavy-handed and clumsy due to my arthritis, which is why I buy cheap keyboards; the expensive ones break just as easily. Unfortunately this time I killed my Neo2 smart keyboard, which is no longer being manufactured. Since I can store two hundred manuscript pages on the Neo2, run it for weeks on 3 AA batteries, take it anywhere and even drop it occasionally without a problem I decided to get one off eBay.

The replacement I bought was the last new one listed; which means when I burn up this one I need to find another cheap brand of smart keyboard (there are none), go the tablet-with-paper-thin-attachable-keyboard route (which I will probably break in a month), or start using my much more expensive laptop when I want to take my writing on the go (with which I must use a wireless keyboard because otherwise I'd break the keypad portion of the very expensive laptop.)

Being immobilized irks me because I like to take breaks from the desktop and go out on the porch with my Neo2 for an hour or two. I also use the smart keyboard when I'm getting too distracted by the internet, or my eyes hurt from the monitor glare, or I need to go to the library. During the extensive power failure period after Hurricane Irma I used the smart keyboard exclusively to write and save my laptop charge. Anyway, the new Neo2 is on its way, but in the meantime I'm stuck at my desk.

I want to be mobile next month while I'm working on my NaNo novel for a bunch of other reasons. My story is set in a nearby town, which I plan to visit and write on-scene to get a personal look at some of the setting. I plan to attend at least one official NaNoWriMo write-in, meet some of the local participants and write with them. I may also take a weekend trip, and I always like to do a little writing at the hotel at night or early in the morning. Being mobile also allows me to deal with lack of enthusiasm, so if I start to drag during November I can pack up my keyboard and go someplace that inspires me.

You don't have to be on the move during NaNoWriMo, but having the option to take your writing with you may help you get more done. Also, you don't have to take actual gadgets. I always carry a small notepad with me everywhere in case I see or hear something I want to jot down and remember. Writing in longhand in a notebook or on a legal pad will require you to transcribe it later, but it's a great way to shift gears with writing. You can even take a voice recorder with you on the go and dictate your writing to it. If you've never tried writing elsewhere, this is a great time to give it a test-drive -- you may find it changes your process for the better.

Are you a mobile writer? Any ideas on how to get other writers on the go with their work? Let us know in comments.

Friday, October 20, 2017

PSA Time

It's definitely time for a PBW Public Service Announcement.

There is someone publishing author bibliographies on, and yes, they're selling mine for $2.99. I had no idea it was that valuable. Why didn't you guys tell me to publish my bibliography? I could have made tens of dollars!

Okay. If you would like to view my correct bibliography, in reading order, please do not buy it from I keep it on the blog. As it happens, I've had it on the blog for many, many years. Simply click here to access it.

Oh, and you can send me $2.99 if you want, but unlike this seller I'd rather you not pay me for something that has always been provided for free by the freaking author herself.

That concludes the PSA. Thank you for your attention, and have a wonderful day.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

New Cover Art

My latest cover art from my French publisher J'ai Lu, for their translation of In the Leaves. This is also the first book I sold to a traditional publisher without an agent, so it's a bit of personal history, too.

Monday, October 16, 2017

NaNoWriMondays: Habits

For National Novel Writing Month we always talk about the big issues: productivity, motivation, time management etc. Of course they're important, so they get a lot of attention. But almost every writer develops habits that can often become roadblocks on the way to the finish line. Since we have a particularly difficult road to travel in November, here are:

Ten Writing Habits That Can Wreck Your NaNo Novel
(And what you can do to stop or curb them)

Backtracking: Aka writing a scene or chapter, re-reading it, editing it, re-reading it, editing it, re-reading it, editing it, etc.

Solution: Read and edit what you write for NaNo only one time. If you can't resist the habit, only indulge it for that day. The next day, no matter how much you want to backtrack again, write something new.

Critiquing: Getting feedback from other writers on the work while it's in progress.

Solution: I don't do this, but I know it can be an important part of the process for other writers. Bottom line: You don't have time for critiques. Hold off on all of them until December 1st.

Doubting: Various ways of beating yourself up because you're not worthy, talented, a pro, as good as [insert name of favorite author], you suck, you never finish anything, your ninth grade English teach spit on everything you wrote, or any other reason that shuts down your muse/mojo.

Solution: First, agree with yourself. You're not worthy, or talented, or a pro, or as good as whoever, etc. I often think I suck at this, so you're in good company. Second, write it anyway. Write it for fun. Write it like you're just practicing your typing. Write it for no damn good reason at all.

Excessive Researching: You look for three accurate resources to confirm every fact in your story, and you won't go on until you find them all and add them to your bibliography.

Solution: Do your research and fact-checking in December.

Nesting: In hopes of creating a warm and cozy writing space you constantly do things like make idea boards, collect chachkas, surround yourself with scented candles, hang writing good luck charms over/around/on your computer, and pin motivational messages to yourself on the wall.

Solution: I'm not a nester, but I do respect your right to bury yourself in inspiring junk. The two problems with nesting are 1) being unable to stop long enough to write anything and 2) being distracted from the work by all the inspiring junk you've piled in your writing space. To solve either or both, for the month of November write somewhere else where you are not permitted to nest, like the quiet room at the library.

Over-Editing: There are various forms of this (like backtracking), but they all boil down to spending way more time editing than writing.

Solution: During NaNoWriMo do only a single pass edit of what you write. Save the rest for December.

Perfection Questing: Acts involved with the need to be sure your plot, characters, word choices and anything else involved in the writing is perfect, and the inability to write anything new until they are.

Solution: Like doubting, this habit can be paralyzing. I once sat next to a famous writer dude at a luncheon who admitted to me he spent ten years writing a single book because he had to be sure every word of it was perfect. You don't have ten years, you have thirty days, so write the story first and make it perfect later.

Procrastinating: Finding reasons not to write that include but are not limited to your lousy day job, mental exhaustion, your family problems, the fascinating new season of DWTS and so on.

Solution: This is a tough one, but remember that life is short. So is NaNoWriMo. I suggest that for the month of November you commit to writing an hour every day -- no matter how much your life sucks, or how little you get on the page. You may not cross the finish line, but having actual writing as part of your daily routine for a month may help combat the procrastination blues.

Waffling: You have difficulty or you're unable to make story decisions, which stalls your progress.

Solutions: I've got two for this: if you can't decide between two or more options, flip a coin until you narrow it down to one and use that. If you can't think of any options, place an editing marker like this in the story [name of John's high school] and move on.

Zoning: You can only write in the zone, aka those times when the words come in a huge, thrilling, endless rush that keeps you working tirelessly for hours.

Solution: I would love to write in the zone all the time. Personally I only get there once or twice a week -- if I'm lucky. The rest of the time I just show up for work and do my job. Showing up and doing the job for thirty days is a good way to get out of the zoning-only habit, too, so try it.

Do you have any writing habits that you want to kick? Have any advice for kicking them? Let us know in comments.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Story Jinxes

Since it's Friday the Thirteenth I thought I'd admit to:

Ten of My Writing-related Superstitions

Avoidances: There are some things I avoid writing in a story (and on the blog) because they spook me or I consider them jinxes, like that lettered board people use to talk to the dead. See how I avoided writing the name of it? Ha.

Beginning Rituals: I always meditate for an hour before I start a new story. Mostly I try to empty my brain and make it into a clean slate, but I also give thanks to the universe for any creative energy it's willing to send my way. If I can't do this, I'll put off starting the new story until I can.

Coin-Flip Titles: When I can't decide between two titles I really like for a story, I flip a coin and let the Fates pick it. This is why Evermore is not titled Everlasting.

Color Cursed: Yellow has been my bad luck color for most of my adult life, although I'm trying to get over it now via therapeutic quilting. Until I do, any time you see anything yellow in my work? Definitely not a good sign.

Crazy 8s: The number 8 relates to many weird things in my personal history, and it spooks me, so I try to use it sparingly -- usually only for weird things in a story.

Do No Harm: If I do base a character on a person in the real world, I try not to kill them off in the story, as I think that's tempting Fate in a very bad way. Anything else goes, however.

Easter Eggs: I regularly embed little treasures in my stories (and I'm not going to tell you what or where they are) mainly for fun, and to see if readers are paying attention. Like anagrams (also something I regularly hide in stories) I think they're good luck.

Fabulous 14s: Fourteen is my lucky number, and I do put it somewhere in every story I write as a personal talisman. If I can't fit in the actual number somewhere, I'll use the letters of the word fourteen as a secret acronym or acrostic sentence.

Names Not Used: I try never to name characters after people I dislike, random nouns, or members of my family. I think the first is bad luck, the second is silly, and the third is creepy.

Never me: It gives me the willies when writers Tuckerize themselves to become characters. One of the reasons I stopped reading Stephen King is because he did. Thus you will never see PBW as a character in any of my stories. I will occasionally refer to myself as part of a joke, but always unnamed.

Do you have any writing superstitions? Let us know in comments.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017


Just got notified that one of my favorite online shops for writers is closing:

"It is with mixed feelings that we announce we will be closing the Writer’s Bloc online store in November 2017. We are holding a going out of business sale offering deeper discounts on all of our popular items in an effort to clear out our inventory. We want to send out a special thank you to our loyal customers and deeply appreciate all of your support over the years. You’ve introduced us to some fabulous brands that we love and write with on a daily basis such as Clairefontaine, Rodia, LAMY, Noodlers, Pelikan, Pilot, Aston Leather, and so many others. You will certainly be missed!

Thank you for sharing the last 10 years with all of us here at Writer’s Bloc."

Monday, October 09, 2017

NaNoWriMonday: Less than 10%

National Novel Writing Month gets plenty of online attention and participation. We writers talk about it a lot before, during and after November. Since it began NaNoWriMo has evolved into a writing community of its own. Just take a look at the stats from last year: 384,126 participants jumped in and gave it their best shot. Of these (according to their 2017 press release) over 34,000 crossed the finish line with a 50K book that they wrote in 30 days.

A lot of writers join in, but less than ten percent finish (and I'm not on my high horse here; I failed to win one year because one of my pets died and I was horribly depressed.) While it's fun to talk about writing a novel in a month, and even to start one when November 1st rolls around, it's a lot harder to actually produce fifty thousand words in thirty days.

I think there are three big obstacles that almost everyone has to deal with during NaNoWriMo:

No time -- you have only 30 days to do it. No extensions. No time off. No sick days.
Holidays -- In the U.S., Thanksgiving. And if you're a shopper, Black Friday.
Work-- Some writers insist on working at a day job so they can pay their bills. Disclaimer: I'm one of them.

Then there are the more nebulous reasons, such as when the idea fizzles out, or the self-doubt kicks in, or you find yourself wanting to kill off all the characters in the story. Basically the writing stops being fun and becomes work. You find yourself slogging through the pages, and making up excuses not to work on it, and suddenly it's November 29th and you have 40K left to write in order to win. One month goes very fast.

I can't guarantee you'll cross the finish line in November; no one can. But here are some tips that may help you be part of the less than ten percent who probably will:

1. Advance Chapter: Test out your story idea by writing a chapter now, or sometime before NaNoWriMo begins. You don't have to count it as part of your 50K, and it will give you a preview of how the writing will go.

2. Brain Work It: Imagine your story from start to finish in an abbreviated form, like a movie trailer playing it your head, until you can clearly envision the major or dramatic highlights (and this won't work for organic/pantser writers).

3. Make a Mix: This isn't something I can do anymore (hearing loss sucks), but plenty of writers make up soundtracks for their work that they listen to before or during their work sessions. Having the soundtrack seems to help some writers better envision the story.

4. Whiteboard it: Outline your story on a whiteboard. has a neat article on this here with example boards from J.K. Rowling and Norman Mailer.

Look around you and see what changes you can make with your writing time and space. In order to produce 1,667 words per day, you'll probably need to write for at least a couple of hours. I recommend splitting the writing into two sessions. It may also help to work when things are calm and quiet, like early in the morning before everyone gets up, and/or later at night when they're all in bed. Or leave the house and go somewhere quiet, like the library.

For those of you who prefer noise, take a laptop to Starbucks or a mall food court or a busy park. You also don't have to write every day, but if you're planning to take time off during NaNoWriMo, write a little extra on the days you do work to compensate.

Another big time sink that can kill your writing: television/movie watching. Stop it completely for the month of November, and devote that time instead to your novel.

Also, don't try to go it alone. Ask your friends and family to help you during NaNoWriMo however they can to free you up for writing.

Does anyone have any tricks they use to be more productive with their writing time? Let us know in comments.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Oh Cool

Now this is really neat: Hubspot's blog idea generator uses three nouns you input to generate a week's worth of blog post titles. I fed it the words writing/novel/plot and got these:

1. 5 Tools Everyone In The Novel Industry Should Be Using
2. 10 Quick Tips About Writing
3. Why We Love Plot (And You Should, Too!)
4. How To Solve The Biggest Problems With Novel
5. 7 Things About Writing Your Boss Wants To Know

Some of these won't work, but I like the quick tips idea, and the why we love plot. I might use those in future PBW posts.

For the words reader/book/sales I got:

1. 10 Signs You Should Invest In Book
2. What Will Reader Be Like In 100 Years?
3. 14 Common Misconceptions About Sales
4. The History Of Book
5. Think You're Cut Out For Doing Reader? Take This Quiz

Okay, I'm not cut out to be doing readers, but what will readers be like in 100 years? That would be fun to imagine.

Finally I tried love/story/hero, and my results were:

1. 20 Myths About Love
2. 10 Quick Tips About Story
3. The Worst Advice We've Ever Heard About Hero
4. The Ultimate Cheat Sheet On Love
5. 14 Common Misconceptions About Story

You can see that the generator starts repeating itself, but there are still some decent ideas here. I'd like to research 20 myths about love, and if you're writing a hero, there are mountains of bad advice out there to avoid. I also like the ultimate cheat sheet on love -- what would a writer's version look like?

If you're looking for fresh ideas for your blog, give this a whirl -- you might find inspiration along with a few chuckles.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Fun Story Outlines

Today we're going to talk about outlining stories. All strictly artistic, spontaneous, organic and/or pantser writers should now leave the blog, lest I poison your well, ruin your process or otherwise mess with your mojo.

It's not that bad. Outlining can be a blast, if you stop with the dread and go for the fun of it. I did that last month with my outline for my NaNoWriMo 2017 novel. I had the general idea of what I wanted to write, so basically I just channeled the protagonist and let her tell me the bare bones of the story in her voice. Since I think Emma is hilarious, it was something I really enjoyed -- and that is the key.

If you don't like writing traditional outlines, why try writing them at all? Instead, why not write what happens in your story like a bullet list:

Soviet missile sub commander defects -- with invisible sub.
CIA drops analyst on US sub.
Subs meet; get cranky.
Analyst and defector become periscope pals.
Second Soviet sub arrives.
Torpedoes fly.
The cook is a saboteur!
Sam Neill character dies.
Soviets think defecting sub sank.
They defect happily ever after.

Okay, it's a bit tongue-in-cheek, but that is a bullet list-style outline of The Hunt for Red October. I covered all the major plot points in ten lines (and just fifty words) off the top of my head. Took me five minutes because it was fun.

For those of you who are muttering that you're not into list outlining, okay. Why not invent your own method? I did that back in 2015 with story cards, and in 2012 with SCARAB outlining, and in 2008 with my speedy ten point plot outline. So now it's your turn. What can you think up that would make the task easier, faster, or more interesting?

Don't limit yourself to what you can do on the computer, either. You can use index cards, sticky notes, a small notepad, a story journal, a composition book, a cork board collage -- anything that helps you organize your thoughts can also work for outlining a story.

Finally, back in 2015 I reposted my master list of novel outlining links, and most of the links still work, so if you don't want to follow my method, try someone else's. See what feels like fun for you, and you might never again dread outlining.

Monday, October 02, 2017


From now until November 30th I'm going to devote Mondays on the blog to National Novel Writing Month, in which I plan to participate, and will absolutely nag everyone else who wants to listen. If you do a search of PBW with the NaNoWriMo tag you will also find all the posts I've written in the past with pep talks, helpful links and free or very cheap online resources etc.

We've got almost a month before the madness begins, and I'm sure some of you are still on the fence as to whether or not to join in. Lots of writers wait until the last minute before they sign up, which is fine. Sometimes it's tough to decide. The thought of writing fifty thousand words in thirty days can be intimidating, especially when you have a day job. I'll be writing two books simultaneously for the first couple weeks in November -- one for work + my NaNo novel -- so believe me, I understand.

NaNoWriMo is work. Hard work. Challenging, frustrating, often maddening work -- but it isn't all work. It's allowing your muse to do whatever it wants. For a novelist, it's a month-long chunk of creative freedom. Your novel isn't going to write itself, and it's possible you could end up with a story that lives in a drawer or trunk or on a hard drive forever. Also, at the finish line you don't actually get anything but your story. Well, and bragging rights. And that cool winner badge to post on your blog or web site, and possibly some special free offer thing from NaNoWriMo commercial sponsors. And the satisfaction of knowing that you wrote a book in thirty days.

This November I'll be writing Haunted House Style for all of you. I'll post online every word I write daily so you can see how I handle a first draft. Once I've finished and edited the book, it will be permanently posted on the free reads page. I can't wait, either. This is the most fun I can have while staying dressed. Also, I love that winner badge.

Are you ready to commit? If you have, how are you prepping for NaNoWriMo? Tell us in comments.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Paint Chip Books

All the visits we've been making to the home improvement and big box stores for post-Irma stuff has allowed me to collect some paint chips to use for story palettes. Okay, I admit, I just like looking at the paint chips. There's something mesmerizing about all those colors and pamphlets and decorator photos that makes me want to redo every room in the house (even my office, which is already painted with my favorite shade of sea glass.) I also pay close attention to the color names, as they often use unusual nouns and adjectives for them -- something I can always use when writing Yet Another Blue-eyed Character.

Sure, I know what you're thinking: how hard can it be to describe blue eyes? On average I have at least two blue-eyed characters in every novel I write. Since I like blue eyes, often more than two. Times 67 novels. Try describing blue eyes differently at least one hundred and thirty-four times, then come sneer at my paint chips.

On my last visit to Lowe's I noticed that Olympic and Valspar had put out some chip cards I hadn't before seen. Olympic now pairs some photos with the paint chips on their cards (top middle of the pic here), while Valspar has trio sets of colors with little windows in them (top right.) Wal-Mart also had large sheet-style paint chips that were self-adhesive to stick on the wall and preview what the paint would look like (bottom middle.)

I collected samples of everything I liked (and I am planning to redo the guest bathroom, so I chose colors I'd like to try in that room) and brought them home to have some fun. Since I made some notepads out of paint chips earlier this month I thought I might see what I could make out of this batch. Olympic's photo paint chip cards have lots of lovely, serene images on them so I started with them.

These would be great for easy-to-make bookmarks if you cut off the paint chips and glued the strip of images to scrapbook or heavier-weight craft paper, but I was a bit more ambitious. First I trimmed the cards to separate the images from the paint chips, and then glue-sticked the image strips in four rows on a sheet of old card stock from the paper recycling bin.

Stacking them together in harmonious colors created a collage effect that I liked a lot:

For the first collage page I unearthed an ancient pack of computer stationery and a torn book board from my recycle bin and trimmed them down, punched holes in them and fastened them together with two binder rings. Now I have a bigger notebook for my desk, which I actually needed, with paper that is nice enough to use for correspondence. With the support of the book board backing I can also use it while I'm walking around the house and muttering to myself as I work out a scene.

For the second collage page I cut in half some 140lb. coldpress watercolor paper left over from the kids' school days, and used the same hole punch/binder ring approach to making myself a nice-sized watercolor journal.

For the windowed paint chip cards I settled on making some smash books to store swatches of fabric from my quilt projects. I took the paint squares I trimmed from the Photo cards and glued them over the windows from the back, then cut some old 12 X 12 scrapbook paper into six 4" X 5-1/2" pages. After holepunching everything I used a knotted piece of scrap ribbon as the binding:

While all the materials I used to make these are all recycled the end result turned out like something you'd purchase from that fussy journal section in big book stores. These two pain chip books were also easy and simple enough for kids to make, although I'd recommend adult supervision if they use a paper trimmer, scissors or any other sharp-edged objects.

If you're interested in doing something else with your paint chips, has 50 projects here. I like's paint chip mosaic greeting cards -- you could easily do these in holiday colors.

Have you done anything interesting with paint chips? Let us know in comments.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

NaNoWriMo Stuff

The folks to blame for National Novel Writing Month have put up the participant badges for 2017, and they're actually not bad this year. I like the teal, the crossed pens and the simplicity of the design. Also, I can actually read this one without having to ask a younger person to assist; always a bonus. As I am planning to dump Photobucket, my pic hosting site, in the midst of NaNoWriMo I will not be able to offer alternative flair for 2017.

I've also put together a cover for my NaNoWriMo, using my focal image:

I'm excited. How about you all? Anyone else ready to commit to the madness? Let us know in comments.

Image Credits:

NanoWriMo particpant badge: National Novel Writing Month
Ghostly Typist: Solarseven

Monday, September 25, 2017

All You Need

My daughter took these two pictures after returning to college; Hurricane Irma was responsible for the second.

Much to no one's surprise the world didn't end on Saturday. Having lived through about a dozen predicted Apocalypses I wasn't worried. Not like I could have done anything to stop a giant shadow planet from smashing into the Earth anyway.

I can do plenty of other things. Write. Quilt. Last night I brought my kid her favorite grapes and three little pumpkins so she can decorate her tiny apartment for Fall. Today I'm writing, vacumming and mopping the floors, and knocking out the laundry while my guy continues to cut up tree debris and washes the dogs. Tonight I'm making homemade stir fry for dinner. That's all I think about, versus the Apocalypse, I mean. The Apocalypse is not on my to-do list.

The graffiti is right, you know. All you need is love.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Off to Write

Hurricane Irma put me woefully behind on my writing schedule, so I'm taking off today to get some work done. See you on Monday.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

NaNo Prep

As promised, here's an update on my NaNoWriMo preparations:

Novel Working Title: Haunted House Style

Cast: Emma Jones, Julian Caine, Carol Kimball, Nerina Whitmore, Martina Ramirez, Dr. Fred (Jeff) Jeffers, Olivia Gray, Paul Gray, Angus McShea, Bridie McShea, Maeve McShea, Colin Boyle, Father Patrick Nolan, Donald (Madman) Madigan.

Focal image: See image with this post.

Outline: I had fun with this by writing it in first person in Emma's voice. It's a one-pager, but it gives me the bare bones to build on when I write the full-length synopsis and chapter summaries. Click here to read it.

Theme: Revenge

Also, my user name on the NaNoWriMo web site is Lynn Viehl for anyone participating who wants to get in touch there.

Image Credit: Solarseven

Monday, September 18, 2017

Holding On -- or Not

Before Irma arrived to mess with us, I got a depressing reality check: according to Photobucket's account renewal date I have until November 16th to switch 13 years of images on PBW from their host service to Blogger in order to preserve all my blog pics before I delete my account with them. Which I might be able to do, if I devote a little time every day to uploading and coding, but I also have two other blogs with Photobucket-hosted images (Disenchanted & Co. and PBWindow) to redo.

Here are the number of published posts on the three blogs:

Paperback Writer: 4407

PBWindow: 1252

Disenchanted & Co.: 201

Total: 5860

Not all of my PBW or Disenchanted & Co. posts have pics, but I've been pretty liberal with images on both. PBWindow was my photo blog so that's 100% pictures.

I've been blogging steadily since I started my very first blog waaaay back on November 3, 2001. Sixteen years on the internet; thirteen of them right here. But with all the headaches involved in forging ahead with blogging until I decide to retire (sometime in 2027, Lord willing) I am thinking about how long I want to (or actually can) hold on to all this. I do have all of my blogs backed up, btw, so I won't lose anything even if my Photobucket account goes poof.

Here are what I see as my options:

1. Close the account, let the pics vanish, and not do anything about them. PBWindow would become a complete void, but the written content would still be there on the others. This doesn't work for me because I'm more of a do-something gal.

2. Hang on for another year with Photobucket to have the time to manually switch everything on all three blogs over to Blogger. What gives me pause about this is that Google (which hosts all the pics on Blogger), could go the way of Photobucket and become insanely difficult to use, or up their annual pricing, or behave like jerks, and all my efforts would all be for nothing. Also, I've been burned by hosting services before, so I don't trust any of them.

3. Turn the archives of all the blogs into PDFs and make them free e-books. Possibly the fastest/easiest/cheapest route.

I'm inclined to go with door#3, so I did a test run with Disenchanted & Co., resizing the pics and making it more readable, and it took me about two hours (I cut and paste every page of the blog into a Word document, and then turned it into a PDF with Adobe.) Then I did a cut and paste of one year of posts from PBWindow and converted them to a PDF, which was quicker (about 20 minutes.)

Since I already have my blogs backed up as Word documents, I can turn them all into PDFs right now, save them on my Google drive, and then go back and edit the e-books at my leisure. I have a bit more to think about, but I'll let you all know what I decide before I do anything drastic.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Made It

Hurricane Irma was no picnic, but we made it through without harm, and only moderate damage to the house and our property. Some roads are still closed and/or flooded, and of course millions are still without power, but we and our neighbors are helping each other however we can. As you might expect gas, bottled water and fresh food are very scarce, but trucks are arriving every day, so I hope soon things will get back to a relatively normal state.

What I'm doing: right now, checking on elderly neighbors, clearing the debris from the yard, and providing meals, bathrooms and laundry for friends and neighbors who are still without power. Simple things like a hot shower and clean clothes really help, so if you're in a situation to do the same, please do.

To be sure your donations get to the people affected by Hurricane Irma, I suggest a donation to the Red Cross. You can find out more by visiting or calling 1-800-RED CROSS. You can also text the word IRMA to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Friday, September 08, 2017

PBW on Hiatus

As of right now it looks like we will be dealing directly with Hurricane Irma starting tomorrow night. The last time we faced a storm this strong we had no power for 21 days afterward, so I may be scarce for a while. We have made all the proper preparations, and have been through many storms like this both here and in South Florida, so we feel confident that we'll make it through again.

Since I won't be around to approve comments or update PBW I'm going to put the blog on hiatus for the duration. I'll check in when I can and let you all know how we made it through. In the meantime, please send good thoughts and prayers for all the people of Florida and the Caribbean. This time we're really going to need them.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017


Another experiment with uploading to Blogger, this time in bulk, and a little amusement for your Wednesday. For two bucks my daughter bought this chemistry book at a local antique mall:

It's 142 years old, but in beautiful condition:

Inside we found two makeshift book marks: an article outlining the then-radical method of teachers beginning the school day by discussing the latest news with their students:

We also found a folded scrap:

Unfolded to reveal some student's math notes:

I love old books, especially ones that come with treasures hidden inside. What have you found inside an old book lately? Let us know in comments.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Off to Prep

I'm taking off today to get some household things done in the event we get a visit from Hurricane Irma. For those who are likewise watching her, the National Hurricane Center is your best bet for the most up-to-date and accurate information on the storm.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Art Journaling

Now if I've filched the Blogger links and recoded them correctly, this post should show three pics from my summer art journal. I've gotten back into sketching, drawing, painting and collaging in a small way, mainly to refine my motor skills now that I've got more control over my alternate index finger (aka my middle finger -- arthritis has toasted the joints of my official index finger.)

I've also missed my journaling art. I love to sew, and quilting will likely be my primary art-for-fun forever, but sometimes I need a break from the needlework. Having an art journal allows me to play with color and ideas, and express my POV in interesting ways. Over the years I've also collected a massive amount of images, interesting papers, and recycled materials, and working them into art makes me happy while being green. I've also missed painting watercolors, terrible as mine always tend to turn out. It's not the final product that really matters anyway for me; it's the making of it.

As with my experience with adult coloring books keeping an art journal is very soothing. I do write in mine, but not much (and taking a little rest from words is likewise calming and relaxing.) Since it's usually a negative mood changer I have been working on a couple of pages almost every day while moving my youngest off to college. I find I prefer to end my day with art journaling because it works out all the snarls and worries from my thoughts, and allows me to sleep better once I do go to bed. Because I do it just for fun there's no pressure. I don't have to be profound or say things important or even think about it much. I let my ideas loose and see what happens.

Combining collage with doodling is my favorite form of art journaling. Here I put together a pretty little Victorian paper doll I've had sitting in a drawer for years on a recycled bit of black card stock, and used a silver gel pen to doodle around her. Since one of her feet had been torn off I added a clip of the word Paris from another paper remnant to cover the amputation. The end result (see next photo) might look a bit wonky, but I liked it -- and with journaling of any kind that's all that matters.

Incorporating an overall theme for an art journal can help you navigate through the pages with more direction. I have a couple of vintage Victorian scrapbooks filled with loose calling cards and advertising art that I might raid and make into a strictly Victorian scrap-art journal. I've also seen Halloween and Winter-themed art journals that are gorgeous.

Art journaling isn't just helping me cope with being an empty nester. One thing I noticed immediately when I came back from my spring/summer hiatus is that nothing has changed with the toxic levels of dark and evil out there in InternetLand. Honestly, I think it's gotten worse. The only way I know how to combat that kind of ugliness is to be part of the light. Writing may be my big hurricane lamp, but art is my crystal chandelier. If I can inspire just one of you to start an art journal, that's two chandeliers. Three if you get someone else to join us, and more if they do. Imagine if we could all do that, and spread the creation until we bring a little light to everyone we know.

Think about it: if you decided to make an art journal, what would you keep in yours? Tell us in comments.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Grist vs. Gift

One metaphor that has never fit well for me is "grist for the mill." For everyone else in the world it means something that is useful for a particular purpose; for writers it's meant to describe what gives us inspiration, ideas or anything that ends up sparking or going into a story. I don't have a problem with the concept, just the word: grist. For me it immediately invokes gristle, which paired with the mill is simply disgusting, imagery-wise. I think grist is a bit heartless, too. It implies inspiration is nothing more than fodder to be ground up and used.

Since I always want to change things to suit myself, I thought about my attitude toward what inspires me. I consider things that fall into the grist/mill category as gifts from the universe. It may be magical thinking, but the universe always seems to be tossing things at me that make their way into my stories: art, Chinese cookie fortunes, colors, critters, music, odd names, phrases, scents, and textures, to mention a few.

Some of the strongest elements in the stories I write are inspired by very mundane things, too. Broken glass and an old pocket watch evolved into a dreadful superpower (Lucan's from Dark Need) and a time travel device (Disenchanted & Co.) respectively. Gifts for the mill can be very small, too, like a character name (the name Mordred from the Arthurian legend, turned inside out + e = Dredmore in my Toriana books) or something huge (apparently the Oregon Dunes helped Frank Herbert create the SF world of Dune).

Such inspirations often have intense, personal meanings for the writer as well. The photo of the pocket watch you see with this post is one I altered and made into a necklace, and is based on the time-travel device in my story, which was in turn inspired by a lovely old pocket watch I saw in an antique store on one of the best days in my life. For readers, it's a time-travel device. For me it's that and a reminder of something wonderful. Gifts remind us to be grateful and appreciative for whatever makes it into our stories, which is a bit healthier than seeing inspiration as something we can use.

So what was the last gift for the mill you received? Let us know in comments.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Prepping for NaNoWriMo

It's never too early to prepare for National Novel Writing Month. I'm taking the first step today by committing to what I'll write as my November novel, which will be the sequel to Ghost Writer. Since I'll also be working in November I need to get as much done in advance on plotting, research, setting up my novel notebook, etc., so that all I need to do on November 1st is start writing.

Other things I have to decide on:

A title: It can be a working title, but I need something to call it. I really dislike writing a story without a title. I don't know why. Just one of my things, I guess.

A cast: I like to know who will be in the story before I write it, so I'll make up character lists. For this book Emma, Julian, Carol, Nerina, Marti, Jeff and Olivia are my main cast; I just need to figure out who else will be on the page with them.

A focal image: This is a picture relating to the story that I put in the front view panel of my notebook. It makes the notebook easy to spot (I am the Queen of Novel Notebook Planet) and it often helps me in odd ways.

An outline: I'll write a one-page synopsis first to get down the broad strokes, and then break it up into more detailed chapter summaries (I also do this when I'm pitching an idea to a client.)

A theme: All my novels have a conceptual theme of one or two words. For example, Ghost Writer's theme was survivors.

This is my process, and since it always works I stick to it; you may want to do more or less to prepare. Once I have everything put together I'll also post it online so you can see the actual prep work. Are any of you ready to commit to NaNoWriMo? Let us know in comments.

Image credit: Miiisha

Friday, August 25, 2017

Pardon My Bubbles

Pay no attention to the repetitive images; I'm messing with Blogger's code to see how I can make it work for me. I think I've actually got a handle on it now; I'm just uploading through their widget and then stealing the URL to work it back into my old familiar code, which allows me to resize it and put it where/how I like.

I'm going to have to redo fourteen years of posts with images in order to end my dependency on PhotoBucket, but at least now I know how to do it.

Image credit: Flynt

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Ghost Writing BOLOs

After freelancing for three years I've developed a sense for what sort of client to be on the lookout for when I read job listings. Basically I watch for professional clients who offer details and who are prepared to pay a reasonable amount for quality work. I've also picked up on things that tell me the client and I are likely not a good match: hints of micro-managing, rambling listings with no solid info on the work, or rife with claims of how busy or important they are, and of course my personal favorite, threats to prosecute me before I even start working for them.

There's no one yardstick to measure potential clients for anyone, but you can usually pick up on these red flags:

Crowd-funding payment: If you see crowd-funding mentioned anywhere in the listing for the project, make sure your part is fully funded first before you take the job. You want to get paid, not hope to get paid if everyone likes the idea over on Kickstarter.

Multi-staged auditions: Often clients will ask a potential hire to write a trial scene of a couple thousand words, for which they will pay only pennies. This is slightly annoying, but okay. Asking you to do that, plus a chapter if the trial scene is accepted, and then three chapters if the chapter is accepted -- you get the picture. This client can't commit (and I had a publisher do this to me for almost a year, once, so it's not bad behavior exclusive to WFH clients.)

Settling someone's score: An obviously angry client wants someone to write a story about something like, say, their horrible divorce. Before you get sucked into it, let me tell you what they probably really want: a very cheap therapist, or a co-conspirator in a revenge plot. Be neither.

Too much work, too little pay: No client wants to pay millions, but there are plenty who want to pay peanuts (aka a penny a word.) If you're a newbie ghost writer trying to get your foot in the door, you can go for these jobs, but stick to small projects until you've built up your resume enough to attract better clients. Two cents a word is standard, but three cents a word (while rare) is better.

Unreasonable expectations: Some clients seem to think writing takes no time at all, or that writers are like sweat shop workers. I saw a listing the other day for a client who wants five thousand words minimum turned in every day. For a penny a word? That's fifty bucks. You can make more than that slinging burgers.

Finally, trust your instincts. If something in the listing makes you uneasy, that's a red flag (even if you can't define why it unsettles you.)

Monday, August 21, 2017

Sub Op

Otter Libris has this open call for their upcoming MCSI: Magical Crime Scene Investigation antho: "Sometimes the tools that mundane detectives use to solve the crimes of the world just aren’t enough – sometimes you have to call on a little magic. We’re looking for urban fantasy stories that involve a crime scene and require the investigator to use magic or engage the aid of a magical being to solve the crime. Did the house’s hob see what really happened in the domestic violence incident? Does a detective come into possession of a genie’s lamp that will grant him one wish, and he uses it to solve the case that got away? Does your gumshoe use a tracking spell to find the perpetrator using a few strands of hair she found at the scene? The people in your world can use magic openly or on the sly, it’s all up to you. But your story must be urban fantasy, and involve a crime scene and magic in some way."

Also, on what they really want to see: "Comedy, comedy, comedy! We truly don’t see enough of this in the slush pile and giving us something that makes us laugh will give you a leg up on the competition. Diverse protagonists – we’ve got nothing against the classic gumshoes of the noir era (usually white males), but we want to see something new. This doesn’t mean we won’t accept a story with a white male lead, but you’re going to have to knock our socks off. Magic systems and magical creatures outside of the typical European-based fare that’s dominated Western publishing for so long. Again, we want something new and fresh; and if you do use the more well known European-based magic and creatures, you’re going to have to wow us."

Length: "We’re looking for stories that fall in the 3,000 to 10,000 word range. We will consider looking at stories outside this range, but they need to be just too good for us to pass up. You have a much better chance if you keep the word count within our range. Please query us before sending a story outside of the word count guidelines." On reprints: "We prefer unpublished, original fiction. However, we will consider including one or two reprints in this anthology, but only if they are overwhelmingly fantastic. Make sure you let us know if your story has been published elsewhere before." Payment: "Unpublished stories earn a onetime fee of $25 plus one contributor’s copy for the original terms of the contract. Reprints earn a onetime fee of $10 plus one contributor’s copy for the original terms of the contract. Payment is within 90 days of publication." On submissions: "We will be accepting electronic submissions only. Make sure you put “MCSI” in your email subject line. No simultaneous or multiple submissions please. Send your story as a .doc or .rtf file to submissions at otterlibris dot com." Submission Window: "We will be open for submissions for the anthology beginning on October 1, 2017 and close to submissions on January 31, 2018.

For more information, go to their guidelines page here.

Friday, August 18, 2017

For Art's Sake

This is another pic test, but also displays what was a big step for me as a quilter. Over the summer I made my first official art quilt (which I define as a quilted piece created organically and strictly to function as art.) I've done some crazy quilted and fiber art pieces, but both times I used stitch guides or patterns. This time I planned nothing, collected the materials I wanted to use as I spotted them, and then put it together and embroidered and quilted it. No patterns. No stitch guide. I designed it based on things in my life, and went with improvisational stitching.

How was it, working on the art quilt? I can tell you that it felt intimidating and frustrating, and at times scared the crap out of me. The whole time I worked on it I wanted to run for my how-to books and use something from them rather than invent my own designs. Even as I put the last stitches in I considered hiding it under the bed.

It's definitely not perfect, and I've seen art quilts that are a hundred times better. I also love every single awkward unplanned imperfect stitch of it, because it's mine. My world. My art. My hands. My vision. I know because I did the same thing thirty-three years ago when I wrote my first novel.

I had no practical reason to make this art quilt. The time I used to work on it could have been spent working on a handmade gift for someone else -- I live in what has become the house of quilts, so I give away almost everything I make now to family or friends. I didn't need another wall hanging; I'm actually running out of wall space in the office. When I thought about it before I made it, I felt like I was being selfish to put so much of my spare time into what seemed basically useless.

Any of that sound familiar? Most of us are so busy with making a living or caring/providing for family that we feel guilty when we give a little of ourselves to our art. To do something just to create beauty, that doesn't generate income, almost seems wasteful. To vent or rejoice or mourn or celebrate through art is probably the best therapy on the planet, and yet we beat ourselves for doing it, or behave as if it's something we have to do in secret, like using drugs or booze.

This art quilt, awkward and amateurish as it is, represents one of the changes I'm making in my creative life. I'm taking a little time for me now, and I don't feel guilty about that. I've spent my life to caring for and giving to others. There are still things I need to discover. I'm going looking for them.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Jump Start Ten

Ten Things You Can Do to Jump Start Your Writing Life

Color Spark: Put together a palette of colors (DeGraeve's Palette Generator will make one for you based on any online pic you feed to it) and create a character or setting based on the color combination.

Copy That: Write cover copy for a short story or novel you want to write. If you like how it comes out, use the copy as your story outline.

Cover It: Create a book cover for a story you want to write, and hang it up in your writing space as inspiration/motivation. Or use a cover generator like this French one (input your byline in the box and pick an edition) to generate something random, and write a story based on your results.

Descriptive: Go to a beautiful spot with a notebook, pen and (optional) camera. Describe where you are and what you see in as much detail as you can in your notebook. If you bring a camera, take photos of the most interesting aspects of your spot. You now have the setting for a scene; when you get home write one.

Eavesdrop: The next time you go out (and make sure you do this discreetly/safely) take a notepad and jot down the most interesting things you hear the people around you say. When you get home, choose one or more of the things you wrote down as dialogue, and write them into a scene.

Hour Aside: Devote one hour at the same time every day to work on a writing project (or, if you don't have one, start a new project.) People with day jobs, try getting up an hour earlier -- that always works for me.

Idea Book/Journal: Start a journal of writing ideas. You can just list whatever comes to mind when you think about writing. If you already have enough story ideas, write a journal from the POV of a character.

Super Short: Write a flash fiction of 100 words or less. If you want a real challenge, write a one-sentence story.

Trunk Treasures: Unearth any old story you never finished. Take from it one element (character, dialogue, plot, setting) and use that as inspiration for a new short story.

Uncontest: Find a fee-free writing contest that intrigues you, and write a submission for that contest just for fun (note: if you finish the story in time for the contest's deadline, submitting it would be awesome.)

Monday, August 14, 2017

More Pics

Pic #1 : Cheetah pic taken by my guy for me.

Pic #2: Dome chandelier at the place the kids took me for my birthday lunch.

Pic #3: 81 spools of vintage thread I bought at GoodWill for $7.99 (storage box included.)

I'm trying out Blogger's photo upload extra-large size, and experimenting with how the text works with it. Also, I found this about storage limits on Blogger in their help forum:

"As of now there are no such storage limitations specifically for images you upload on Blogger. As Blogger is a part of your Google account, Google provides 15 GB of free memory for each account. This 15 GB will be shared across all Google products linked to your account such as Gmail, Google Drive and Google Photos.

Blogger usually doesn't have any limit for the storage as the images the you upload will be stored in Google Photos of your Google account."

Just FYI: I pay $10.00 per year to Google for 36G of storage space for my free e-books, all of which take up only about 3G.

Friday, August 11, 2017


Today's post is being written on my new desktop computer, Calliope. She's got awesome memory, and the latest version of Word and Excel. She also supports my ancient Microsoft Digital Imaging Suite (circa 2006) and the equally decrepit version of Adobe Acrobat I own (no date on the box, but probably about 2008). Despite the fact that I can now hook up with X-Box and Netflix and all the other bells/whistles Calliope is fully prepared to host and ring and blow for me, Word + Excel + MDIS + Acrobat is all I really need for my ghost writing gigs.

My old desktop became corrupted and unreliable a few months ago, forcing me to depend solely on my old laptop, which is actually my emergency backup computer. I was tempted to go out immediately and buy a replacement, but at the time what I could afford to spend wouldn't get me what I really needed (with a kid in college I prefer to pay cash for everything, too.)

I thought about what would be my dream computer. I wanted a lot of memory, better processing speed, and a more reliable brand, so I asked around for recommendations -- and my daughter's friends turned out to be the most helpful in that department. I researched, looked at prices, and waited some more.

It made me a little nervous to be dependent on just one old laptop, but I got into the habit of backing up everything multiple times per day, and in the meantime saved my pennies and watched for good sales. I thought I might have to wait until the holidays to find what I needed marked down. Then I spotted Calliope, marked down $180.00, at a back to school sale. She was exactly what I wanted, so I bought her. She was such a good deal that my guy also bought one for our kid to take with her to university. The icing on the cake was getting software, a printer for my kid, and protection plans at a fraction of what they usually cost, as they were also on sale (if you bought a new computer.)

While I don't like waiting for what I want, I really like getting what I want on my terms. That makes it worth the wait.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Pics Problems

I am ready to give up on Photobucket as a photo archive, as their service has become so problematic I can hardly upload anything anymore. Since Blogger offers a pic upload, I'm going to experiment with it today to see how it works (and show you some of the work I've been doing while I was on hiatus):

Pics #1-2 (Small Size on the Blogger Upload): Two throw quilts I made over the spring; I designed the bargello pattern for the second one myself.

Pics #3-4 (Medium Size): A tote I made from fabric scraps for a friend of my guy's who was in a car wreck; a quilt I designed and made with some gorgeous blocks and fabric that our pal Theo sent me.

Pics #5-6 (Large Size): A beach tote I made for my daughter after accidentally destroying hers in the washer; and my very first official art quilt, which I made for fun last month.

I have to figure out the text wrapping on Blogger's photo upload, but otherwise it seems pretty easy.

Can anyone recommend a photo archive/hosting service (other than Photobucket) that is simple to use and doesn't cost an arm + leg? Let me know in comments.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Free NaNoWriMo Resources

I got an SPAMish e-mail from the National Novel Writing Month folks offering me a discount on an online writing class with some university where Joss Whedon evidently went to school. All due respect to higher education and all, but I am perplexed by this (Mr. Whedon writes novels?) That's what I get for subscribing to their newsletter, I suppose.

I don't think you should have to pay anyone to learn how to write novels (disclaimer: I never did.) The reason I started PBW was to share what I know and learn about writing with others who are self-taught like me, and/or who can't afford to pay for education. So here are free writing resources from the PBW archives for anyone who wants to prep for NaNoWriMo:

Characters: You can get a mini crash-course in how to craft characters in my post about stand-out characters here, and a fun way to create character references by using my Character Trading Cards idea.

Outlining: Check out this post for everything you ever wanted to know about novel outlining, including a link to my Novel Outlining 101, the most popular post of all time at PBW.

Plot: Plotting with Purpose is an online workshop I did ten years ago that still holds true to everything I do today.

Setting: My workshop post Food and Fire gives some insight as to how I work (and often struggle with) writing settings.

Style: I even did a virtual workshop on writing style here.

If you do a keyword search here at PBW you'll likely find a post about almost anything to do with novel writing, too, and with workshops I usually include links to other authors' opinions on the topics. You can also use keywords and research 40K articles on writing over at Hiveword's Writer's Knowledge Base.

I'm also in for writing a novel in November, and once the NaNoWriMo site opens for the 2017 challenge I'll see what group options there are so those who want to join me can congregate together all during those crazy thirty days. Stay tuned for more details as we get closer to the kick-off on November 1st.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Back to Writing

Although fall doesn't officially start until September 22nd this year, the month of August always feels like summer's end to me. I think it's partly all the back to school sales; seeing those inevitable yellow cartoon bus signs plastered on a bin of file folders or hanging over an endcap of highlighters signals the finality of fun for the year (for me, anyway -- summer is my favorite season.)

This week I've been plotting a new work project that will keep me writing until the holidays arrive, and like any fresh story I'm completely in love with it. I want to start it so much I've been scribbling bits of dialogue and sketching characters and printing out research notes all week. Tomorrow I'm heading to the office supply place to acquire a new binder -- and I'm thinking of colors and how I want to make this huge, rich palette for the whole cast of characters, because they're all so different, and yet -- look, I can do this all day. My point is that I'm excited and thrilled and so enthusiastic about this story that I feel as if I could write the first book start to finish this weekend.

But: I'm not ready to write it.

Why? Not like I haven't written a book before, right? Plus I know what I want to do. I can even see some of it in my head. When I'm this worked up about all the sparkling beautiful parts of a story, it can be almost painful not to write it. But: I'm not a pantser, or a particularly organic writer. I'm a plotter who wants everything nailed down before I write a single word. I need the whole story, figured out, run through, mapped out and precisely detailed, and that I don't have down or done yet.

It doesn't sound like fun, and I know a lot of writers can't do the kind of prep work I do because it kills their mojo. I'd love to be a more organic, artistic writer, but I know me. When I do this I have to be very methodical, very focused, or I won't finish the project. I don't want to waffle or wonder when I'm writing because that derails me. I don't want the story to be a surprise. Fun for me is getting it done minus train wrecks or surprise parties on the page.

Knowing the kind of writer you are is half the battle, I think. Our blog pal LJ Cohen, who is probably my polar opposite as a writer, talked about how she works in this post. One thing she wrote should be tattooed on all our bods somewhere: "Don't let anyone get away with saying there's only one way to write a novel."

I know tons of ways to write a novel; I've probably tried at least half of them. I also know what works best for me -- the way that hurts a little in this glitzy in-love stage I'm in, but that will enable me to deliver. So I'll spend the next day or two finishing up my very detailed outlines of the plots and characters, and discuss them with my client while I do a bit more research and let everything percolate. Once I have all that done, I'll set up my novel notebook, sit down at the computer and write those two words that still send a little shiver through me, even after typing them sixty-seven times: Chapter One.

What have you got planned for your fall writing? Anyone thinking about doing NaNoWriMo? Tell me in comments.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Now and Then

This is going to be an artsy, I-just-want-to-show-you-cool-stuff post that I want to write more of on the blog. Apply it to writing if you want, because the shoe certainly fits.

I bought this antique crazy quilt fragment from Kelley Street Studio on Etsy because a) it's beautiful, b) it depicts a spider in a web watching an owl reading a book, which is way cool, and c) it was my reward for working through my birthday. It's also over a hundred years old, which makes it even cooler and more precious to me (plus it was very affordable for a little piece of history.)

I'm working on an art quilt right now, and having another quilter's work helps me improve my craft. I can look at a lovely piece like this and let it teach me something by taking in the stitches, colors and composition. The palette of the patchwork, the texture of the silk, the design of the embroidery -- all of it speaks to me as a quilter on multiple levels.

That said, I have my own mojo, too. Before the antique patch arrived, I stitched a spider and web in one of my art quilt blocks:

It was fun to compare the two. I made my web with holographic Sulky, and my spider is based on an orb weaver I often see in my backyard. Mine is also much more primitive, as that's the look I wanted for this piece. What I brought to the creative table is how I see spiders, what I know of them, and how I envision and translate them in my art. The quilter back in 1890 who made the spider watching the owl likely did the same.

In a hundred years or so maybe a quilter will acquire a piece of my work they think is cool and historic, and compare it to their work, and this connection will continue -- or not. The delight is that it's possible, as I just proved by acquiring hers.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Everyday Inspiration

When I unplugged back in March I needed more than a break from the internet and the blog. I had a huge project to tackle, creative batteries in need of serious recharging, and a desire to get back to who I am (versus who everyone expects me to be for them.) This little critter here is an example of things I was missing. Over the last couple years I'd gotten so busy that I wouldn't have said okay when my kid said, "Mom, come outside and see this cool bug."

I stopped burying myself in have-tos and must-dos. I started going outside again, and taking pictures of cool bugs. I wandered a little every day, not to search for anything specific but to be open to inspiration. That cool bug (only the second mantis I've seen since we moved here) inspired a character in the novel I just finished; one who turned out so well that my client complimented me for it.

Would I have created the character without seeing the cool bug? Maybe -- but it probably would have taken longer, and the character might not have been as original. Taking five minutes to admire and photograph this little critter was just for fun, but it helped me with the work, too.

Since I am the least random person I know, I spent a couple of months doing very random things. I ordered a mystery box of modern fabric (which I don't use) and got a bunch of very graphic fat quarters in black and white with touches of gold. You should have seen my face; I've never made a black and white quilt. The point of the exercise, however, was to get out of my fussy old lady crazy quilting color junkie corner and try something new, so I made the fabric into this quilt.

The process made me appreciate modern fabrics; their deceptively simple patterns become classy and vibrant when you start putting them together. The challenge of making such graphic materials work together taught me some new tricks. Since I'm now set on making a true black and white quilt, I think it expanded my horizons a bit, too.

We tend to get complacent with our creativity. I've been doing the same things over and over because I'm pretty good at them, I don't have to think about the work involved much, and the results are predictable and positive. Whether it's quilting or writing or anything, there's nothing wrong with sticking to what you know. That said, unless we try new things once in a while, we can't grow.

What have you done lately to seek new sources of inspiration? Let us know in comments.

Friday, July 28, 2017


Yes, it's really me. After 4+ months on hiatus, I've had ample time to attend to my family and freelance work, get my head and heart in the right place, do lots of other-than-writing creative things, and think about how I want to change/not change things with PBW. I don't have all the answers, but I know if I stay away much longer I'll throw in the towel -- and I'm not willing to give up on this just yet.

The long break was very good for me, writing-wise. Since I've been away I built a new universe, wrote three novels, four novellas and lots of interesting copy. I've also embarked on a new business venture that is very promising. If all goes well I should be gainfully employed until I'm ready to retire. With a kid in college who would like to go on to medical school, that financial stability is really important.

Since my career shift from traditionally-published author to freelance writer I've been struggling with what to do with the blog. I know what I don't want, and what I can't do. Politics are not my thing. I haven't been reading much for pleasure, and while I love books I don't want to review them anymore (but I will knock out what I owe Library Thing; just off the blog.) I'm not inclined to self-publish anything but free reads, so there's no point getting into the whole indy pub stuff. I'm not able to talk about my job except in the most general of terms, so that's off the table, too.

PBW needs to evolve into something else. That's where the question marks come in. I've been having a lot of fun over at Tumblr with my non-writing projects, and I'd like to do a writing version of that here. While NDAs prevent me from sharing details about what I'm working on, I can still talk about the process, neat things I find that help with the work, and anything that helps boost the quality and productivity of the writing life. I am and always will be passionate about that.

There are also a few things about my work that I can still share, too. For example, my French publisher did this amazing cover for their edition of The Clockwork Wolf. I'm thinking about writing a sequel to Ghost Writer for NaNoWriMo this year, and posting my draft online so everyone can follow the process. I'm looking around for a new desktop computer, and doing lots of research on that. I'm getting back out with the camera and taking pictures, mainly of architecture, to help with world-building and making covers for my free reads.

I've missed you all, too, and I want to hear what you've been up to -- so if you're still speaking to me, let me know in comments.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Wishing You